Eugene Rogan on A Diamond in the Desert: Behind the Scenes in the World's Richest City by Jo Tatchell, and Dubai: The Story of the World's Fastest City by Jim Krane
For Jo Tatchell, who lived in Abu Dhabi as a child in the 70s, and returned after graduating from university for a brief stint in the 90s, the pace of change is unsettling. A Diamond in the Desert is a welcome addition to the short list of books on Abu Dhabi. An independent journalist and author of an acclaimed book on Iraq (Nabeel's Song: A Family Story of Survival in Iraq), Tatchell returned to Abu Dhabi to see what had become of the place and to resolve a dark story in her family's past.
By the time AP journalist Jim Krane reached Dubai in January 2005, he was already faced with a boom town that had commandeered 10% of the world's cranes to build its ambitions. Never having known the sleepy little port of the 60s, he comes to his subject unburdened with nostalgia. He is clearly fascinated by the story of how such a global city emerged from such unlikely foundations.
Written as a narrative history, Dubai: The Story of the World's Fastest City begins with the emirate's tribal and imperial history in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Neither Krane nor Tatchell speculates on what the future holds for the most globalised corner of the Arab world. It is enough that they tell the fascinating story of how Abu Dhabi and Dubai reached the current crossroad. Engagingly written and sympathetic to their subjects, both A Diamond in the Desert and Dubai will be welcome additions to the cabin baggage of the many western visitors to the Emirates.
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